There is no shortage of beautiful beaches on the Isle of Skye. But on a sunny day, the almost ethereal quality of Claigan Coral Beach with its white ‘sand’ and turquoise sea keeps visitors coming back for more.
After a hearty breakfast or a mid-morning coffee and a slice of homemade cake, take the short drive (4.3 miles) to the Claigan Coral Beach car park. If you’re feeling energetic, walk from The Dunvegan, passed Dunvegan Castle and down the single track road to the small car park at the end.
TAKE A HIKE
The walk from the Claigan car park to the Coral Beach is just over a mile (2 km) on track and grassy pastures and can take between 25 – 45 minutes each way.
If you have your dog with you, please don’t leave them in the car as they can get quite hot even on an overcast day. Besides, they will love the walk as much as you.
The path winds its way through croft land and it is not unusual to encounter cattle and sheep. Both will tend to ignore you and go about their own business. However, keep your dog on the lead and give the livestock a wide berth and everyone will have a pleasant experience.
Further information can be found on Walkhighlands website.
The dazzling white ‘sand’ of Claigan Coral Beach, that can be seen in many photos, is in fact not sand. It’s also not coral. It’s formed by the deposit of small pieces of ‘coralline’ hard seaweed called maerl that is crushed by wave action, dried and sun bleached on the shore.
AN IMPORTANT HABITAT
Maerl beds are purply-pink when alive. They are a marine nature conservation priority in Scottish waters as they are an important habitat for small marine plants and animals including young scallops. You can find out more on The Scottish Natural Heritage website.
So while you’re beachcombing with the family be sure to point out the delicate snail shells and the tiny pieces of maerl underfoot.
Just offshore, around 150 metres from the beach, is the tidal island of Lampay. At very low tide it is possible to walk across to the island and explore the flora and fauna that live there.
The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office Tidal Prediction charts for Loch Dunvegan can help prevent disappointment.
From the beach, on a clear day, it’s possible to see right across Loch Dunvegan and out towards the Outer Hebrides. It can be a great place to sit and relax with only the sound of the waves lapping on the shore – or watch the seals playing in the loch. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of a sea otter.
For an even better view, climb the small flat-topped hill next to the beach, known as Cnoc Mor a Ghrobain. You can see all the way from Stein on the Waternish peninsula to Dunvegan Head. It’s elevated position makes for a great picnic stop.
Further along the beach are some rockpools, a haven for an array of marine creatures. They are perfect for satisfying the inquisitive minds and hands of children (and the odd adult too!).